Fiscal court gets into countywide smoking ban debate

Published 6:45 pm Monday, July 15, 2019

If a countywide smoking ban moves ahead in Boyle County, the force behind it will have to “come from other sources” than the county’s judge-executive, because he will vote against it, Howard Hunt said last week.

Just before Boyle Fiscal Court adjourned its most recent regular meeting, Magistrate Phil Sammons said he wanted to address the issue of a smoke-free ordinance. The City of Perryville held a public forum about the topic recently, and agreed to review the creation of such an ordinance there, after a resident complained about a local gas station/eatery that allows smoking inside.

“It’s a good subject. I’ve been on this court now for 21 years, and this has been discussed almost every year,” Sammons said. He said the push for a countywide ban actually began with the former Boyle County Health Director Roger Trent, and “now this one,” referring to Brent Blevins, the current director.

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“And I understand why they’re pushing this. And I don’t smoke, and I know it’s hazardous to your health,” he said. But he’s still not in support of banning smoking “for the entire county.”

Sammons said he feels it’s the responsibility of cities, such as Perryville and Junction City, to vote however they want. “It’s not for us to push our weight on them,” he said.

Sammons said he has tobacco growing on both sides of where he lives on Perryville Road, and he’s not “going to tell that guy ‘we got a lot of people out here smoking, you shouldn’t be raising that tobacco.’ That’s not my decision. It’s not my right, judge, to tell you that you can’t do that. I don’t think it’s my business to say you can’t do that. If you want to do it, do it. That’s how I feel about it.”

Judge-Executive Hunt said he agrees.

“I’m well-aware of Brent Blevins’ and Kathy Miles’ (coordinator of Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy) promotion of the smoke-free countywide ban by ordinance. I believe in the health of everybody being a valid point that we should consider,” Hunt said. “But I have to balance that. John (Caywood, magistrate), you talk about leadership. This is what I’m exercising here.”

Hunt said it’s an overreach of government “to say to a group — like Junction City or Perryville or Parksville — that we feel like we in the courthouse know what’s best for you.”

“It’s pushing power on them,” Sammons said.

Hunt said any business owner must accept the fact that “30% of the people in this country smoke, 70% don’t. So he’s giving up 70% potential business because he allows smoking … That’s their choice. Whether it be a Miser’s in Perryville or Connie’s in Junction City, it’s their choice.”

He added that he feels like “we got a lot to say grace over, and until you have a significant constituent comment about the desire — if I don’t want to go in Miser’s because they smoke, I don’t go. The same thing with Connie’s.”

“And you know they smoke. So that’s your choice, going in or out,” Sammons said.

“That’s my choice,” Hunt said. “I appreciate the premise of trying to make everybody healthier. But as I said to Brother (Jamey) Gay earlier today in the office — I know it’s the law, and the sheriff enforces it and the city police enforces it, but I personally don’t like government telling me I have to wear a seatbelt in my car as I drive down the road, because I’m the only one it affects. If I want to go through that windshield, it’s MY choice.”

“My choice,” Sammons said.

“Good thing is now we pay $15 an hour for them to come get you out,” Magistrate Gay joked, referring to the part-time EMS raises voted on earlier in the meeting.

“And that’s it,” Hunt said. “We’re going to pay better for them to come pull me out of the ditch, because I’ll be out the windshield. I just wanted to make that statement. If it moves forward, I will probably not be a party of the lead to move it forward. It’s going to have to come from other sources.”

Short said, “I agree with you.”

“Amen,” Sammons said.

Magistrate Jason Cullen has a different take on the subject. “What isn’t your choice is second-hand smoke. And having to look at somebody that has had cancer. Second-hand smoke leads to cancer.”

Hunt said, “I don’t disagree. But it’s your choice not to go in and participate …”

Cullen said unfortunately, some people don’t “have the choice of where they work,” and have to endure second-hand smoke in establishments that allow them.

“I mean, we just gave $2,500 away not to euthanize dogs,” Cullen said, referring to a matching grant the court had approved, which he voted against. “ … Animals are all subject to second-hand smoke. It’s a leading issue right now, with cancer in dogs. That should tell you … Believe me, I’ve got my own business. The city and county tell me what I can and can’t do with my business all the time.”

“You like it? Them telling you what to do?” Sammons asked.

Cullen said not all of the time, “but sometimes you have to fall in line in order to do business.”

“That’s why you’re in Danville,” Short said, which a few magistrates reacted to.

Cullen said, “And I know that I’m going to trust somebody that’s the head of our health department …”

“I highly respect him,” Hunt said, referring to Blevins. “I agree with his premise. He should be promoting that. I’d be offended if he didn’t.”

“That’s his job,” Sammons said, twice.

Cullen said again what a horrible, awful thing cancer is.

Hunt said, “My grandmother, who I loved dearly, died at age 68 because she smoked like a freight train. I abhor …”

“But you get second-hand smoke everywhere you go,” Short said. “When you come out of Walmart, and they’re sitting right out there in front at the door smoking … You’re supposed to be so many feet away … It’s done at about every business you go to — you gonna hit it when you go in and you gonna hit it when you go out.”

Cullen asked where is the line supposed to end. “… we’re going to go the way of Colorado and say you can do whatever drugs you want?”

“That’s not under consideration,” Magistrate Tom Ellis said.